“We’re concerned about your work-life balance, Quartermaster,” Q mimicked angrily, muttering under his breath as he strode into his branch. Break room or office? He hesitated. Tea might be just the thing, but he had a report to finish. Tea, then. He’d be in a better frame of mind for paperwork. He waved at Liz Earlywine, his administrative assistant, to catch her eye. When she looked up, he pointed to himself and then the break area. She nodded. Good. There was nothing that needed his immediate attention, then. Otherwise she would have waved at him to wait.
In the break area, he began the familiar ritual of preparing tea. When he’d taken over Q-Branch, he’d made sure the break area would always be well-stocked with different varieties of tea. In this mood? He wanted something familiar and soothing. Hmmm. Decaf? No, it always seemed flavorless, despite the claims. He scanned the tins. Darjeeling, rooibos, chamomile, some green varieties. He spotted a tin half hidden behind a gunpowder green. He pulled it out. Green Mist. Yes, that would be suitable.
Melody Deatherage went past, reminding him he needed to talk to her about taking the lead for a new project. “Deethridge,” he called, pronouncing her name correctly, but with his familiar internal sigh at the waste of a good gaming name.
She came over to him with an oddly determined expression.
“Michael, sir,” Mel — Michael interrupted quickly.
“Oh.” Q switched mental gears. “Of course. Do you want me to do a memo announcing the change? Or would you like to?”
“I’d prefer to let people know quietly, sir.”
Q nodded. “Whatever you’re most comfortable with, Michael. Erm… Is this for…” he let his voice trail off in a question.
Michael beamed at the use of his correct name. “Yes, it is.”
“Right. Well then, let me know if you’d like wider notification later. In the meantime, I can get someone from Equal Opportunity over here for a training session.” It had been almost a year since the last time, when Robert Gates had become Davina. It was a good time for the branch to have a refresher.
“Was there anything else?” Q asked absently, his mind already making mental notes of what steps he’d need to set that into motion.
“You called me over,” Michael reminded him.
“Oh. Yes. You’re right. You did good work on your last project, and I have a new one for you to lead. Same as before, you pick your own team. I’ll have Liz get with you to set up a time when we can go over the details.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you. I’ll let her know my schedule.”
“Good. Oh — You’re being taken care of? Medical and any counseling you might need?”
Michael nodded. “Yes, everything is going well.”
They stared at each other for a moment, which was a familiar occurrence in Q-Branch, when participants in a conversation were left wondering whether the conversation was over. They probably were done, right? He thought so, at least. Conversation rules could be fuzzy. “Then I’ll talk with you later. Come see me if you run into any difficulties.”
Looking faintly relieved, Michael nodded and headed off in the same direction he’d been going before Q called him over.
Raised voices and laughing drew his attention to the far side of the branch. He narrowed his eyes. Naturally it was Bond and Trevelyan. The pair of them were chatting up one of his techs, and both of them were looking unfairly gorgeous. Q shook his head. He didn’t mind the idea of dating, but not for a meaningless one-off. Unfortunately, with his job, he had no time for more than that. So. No dating.
His tea finished steeping, and he took it back to his office, once more mulling over his earlier conversation with medical. He stopped beside Liz’s desk. “Do I have a good work-life balance?”
“No, sir,” her grey eyes glinted with amusement. “You have a work balance.”
“Cheeky,” he muttered, going into his office.
“Yes, sir!” Liz called, grinning after him.
Q sat at his desk, which happened to have line of sight to the tech that Bond and Trevelyan were still hovering around. Damn it. Deliberately turning away, he put his mug down on the blotter — where his eye caught a note he’d scrawled earlier: talk to Melody re project. Now, what had he been thinking about? Oh, right. He scratched out Melody and replaced it with Michael, and woke his computer to send a short email to Liz to ask her to get a meeting arranged.
His eyes flickered to the desk across the room where Bond and Trevelyan stood. He sighed and pulled his attention back to where it should be. Medical were probably right. His work-life balance really was shite.